For those who read this column regularly, you’ll know that I totaled my previous travel trailer and have been waiting to pick up its replacement. I’ve also been pretty cagey about what RV we’re picking up. In fact, I’ve been purposely obtuse about the whole thing.
I’m sure you have other things to worry about, but for those of you who were curious I am writing this from Shipshewana, Indiana, inside our new Rockwood Mini Lite 2205S. So there’s that.
Why a new trailer?
The Big Oops
I had mentioned totaling the old trailer, and I did just that. I was driving on a road posted for 55 miles per hour and was driving at that speed. When I saw a huge drainage ditch that spanned the entire road, I hit the brakes. But I still hit that deep ditch close to the posted speed, which flung my old trailer in the air and severely damaged the frame.
Ultimately, the insurance company declared it a total loss and wrote me a check. It seemed that while the amount I was insured for made sense any other time, the pandemic demand for RVs had forced the value past the total amount the policy would cover. So, they also said I could keep it. I then sold it, essentially at scrap value, to a local walnut orchard where it will live out its days as a guest cottage. Kind of a sweet story.
Fortunately, no humans (or animals) were injured in the incident. If you’re going through Palm Springs on Dillon Road, 55 miles per hour is much, much too fast for the conditions. The gouges in the pavement on either side of that ditch showed that I wasn’t the only one who had done this.
Criteria I used
When you’re shopping for RVs I strongly suggest you make a list of priorities. We had a list of “must-have” features and a list of “want” features.
In the must-have, for us, were build quality factors like Azdel wall construction, torsion axle suspension (or comparable), a permanent walk-around queen bed as opposed to a bed that needed some work to make it usable. If the RV had an oven, it had to be the larger 22” oven.
We wanted a larger fresh water holding tank than our previous rig had. This one has that at 54 gallons. The previous trailer’s number was 42 gallons, but they used to include the water heater, so really it was 36 gallons.
Other must-have features were the ability for one of us to sleep while the other worked. My wife and I are on different sleep schedules—she’s a night owl, and I’m an early riser.
A dry bath was a must-have, as well.
We also do a lot of boondocking and spend many nights in the driveways of friends and relatives, so the trailer had to be no longer than most driveways. Further, if it had a slide, we had to have full access to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom with the slide in.
Obviously, I see a lot of RVs as part of doing this job, and I talk to a lot of RV companies. There are some who are simply doing a better job than others, but I’m also rather picky. It makes this a good job for someone like me. There are also deal breakers.
Some features I like
While nice cabinets and interior features are important, where I start is underneath these trailers. I’m a big fan of the Dexter Torflex axles. Having towed a trailer around with the torsion axles and trailers without, the torsion axles just result in the stuff inside bouncing around less. Also, they cause less damage to the goodies inside as well as to the trailer itself.
The last trailer got dragged all over the western U.S. I probably put some 35,000-40,000 miles on it, and it still looked and towed as well as it did when it was new. Well, until I cracked the frame.
I also like the Goodyear tires and the tire pressure monitoring system. I’ve seen too many cases of cheap tires going kablooey at the worst possible time. Any tire can pop, but I want to stack the deck in my favor.
The cabinets, furnishings and all the rest of that were as solid as the day we picked up the old trailer. Rockwood’s cabinet shop is another big plus. I’ve literally seen someone doing pull-ups on the cabinets. Don’t do this. But I’ve seen it.
Further, on the subject of frames, this newer model has a substantially more rigid frame. Also, Lippert has upgraded its coating material, so they are less prone to rust.
You have to compromise on some things in the shopping process, but knowing your deal-breakers is important.
Last time we went through all of this shopping business I dragged my poor, patient wife to RV dealers, shows and events for over a year. We looked at more than 100 rigs, and that’s just knowing that many of the criteria we used this time were the same as the last time.
We already knew fifth wheels and anything motorized were not on our shopping list at all. However, we did consider a custom trailer build and actually almost did that. Almost.
But when we bought the last trailer I couldn’t find a group to share questions, information and resources with so I simply started one on Facebook. And that grew to almost 10,000 members. Because of that group, I got to know a lot of the folks at Rockwood and saw how they build these things.
So, while a few other RVs absolutely tempted me, the decision factors overwhelmingly favored another Rockwood product. So here we are.
I mentioned that there are always compromises in every RV decision. For example, I wasn’t interested in a windshield on an RV with the bed at the front, and I didn’t want a slide room.
I got both.
Again, everything’s a balance.
About the slide room, the one on this trailer is a rack-and-pinion slide and I prefer those to the Schwintek mechanism. That is only because you can legitimately put the slide out partially and then back in without issue. It’s not ideal, but it can be done.
Sometimes on the Schwintek mechanisms, this can cause an error in the timing and you have to re-time the mechanism. Not the biggest issue in the world, but I always err on the side of simpler or more trouble-free.
The windshields in these are automotive-grade and can be replaced by companies like Safelite or other quickie windshield replacement places. But when handling warranties, our dealership sold Flagstaff RVs, which are identical to Rockwood. I only ever had to replace one windshield, and the company that did it took care of it in no time.
Some of the things we’ve since come to appreciate are storage under the bed and the drawers beneath that. There is also storage over the bed across the top. Plus, there are hanging cabinets on either side, with my wife having put a pocketed hanging thing in hers.
There’s also storage under the kitchen cabinet and plenty of prep space. Further, there’s more storage in a pantry on the road side and a second pantry at the back next to the 12-volt refrigerator.
I like the ducted AC and the fact that the furnace doesn’t have floor ducts. There’s a fancy electric fireplace and theater seats. The 12-volt TV is directly opposite those theater seats.
One of the many things I really appreciate about how Chuck and Emily run this website is that it’s real, old-school journalism and they absolutely insist on honesty and integrity. That’s pretty rare nowadays. It makes a difference that our readers are also our supporters, and your contributions keep things the way they are. Thank you.
So, I will say, since I know the Rockwood folks well, thanks to the Facebook Group along with working with them on reviews here and some other products, I have an open line of communication with them.
I was able to get a discounted price on this unit and also it was ushered into production so I could actually get the unit. Further, I worked with several other companies to arrange for some prototype pieces like MORryde, who provided a new entry handle and prototype stabilizer jacks with cross-bracing. These are absolutely game-changing.
I still paid for this unit but at a pre-arranged discount. But I would have purchased this unit anyway, even at regular dealer retail. I didn’t get this because of any price considerations. I bought this trailer because it fit our needs the best.